Review Round-Up: Most Likely to Succeed

Do you have fond memories of standardized test day at school?

Besides the obvious satisfaction of perfectly penciling in those circles?

There aren't many people happy with standardized testing in America's schools these days, and it's just one facet of a system plagued with many processes whose time has passed. The education system is primed for an overhaul in our country, but how can we convince the powers that be to take a first step? Filmmaker Greg Whiteley is the latest to turn to the power of film to bring awareness of a broken system to the forefront with his new documentary, Most Likely to Succeed.

Premiering earlier this year at Sundance, Most Likely to Succeed follows in the footsteps of the education-themed docs that came before, but in addition to focusing on how the system has failed, it centers on one school that has created an alternative curriculum with proven results. 

Most Likely to Succeed Trailer from One Potato Productions on Vimeo.

Most Likely to Succeed has already been shown to U.S. senators, governors, and other influential political figures, as well as being screened at the AFI Docs festival in DC earlier this month. The right people are getting their eyes on it, but what do critics have to say about the film? Let's take a look:

"Taking a cue from Michael Moore, Whiteley utilizes quip-laden voiceover, stock footage and graphics to passionately and vehemently argue his point that institutions like High Tech High could be producing graduates that may be better prepared for an economy where human creativity and innovation are the most important traits. … Yet Most Likely to Succeed admits that the sample size is too small to make an absolute judgment. … Nonetheless, Whiteley has constructed an engaging look at how big picture issues can be intimately explored through human confessionals. All of his subjects offer contemplative and honest assessments of their role in a system that might need a complete overhaul to survive." — Glenn Heath, Jr., The Hollywood Reporter

"Warm, personal, and direct in its approach Most Likely To Succeed, like Waiting for Superman, The Rule and The Lottery before it doesn’t seem to have all the answers. Challenging the industrial model of mass education, it’s encouraging to see a school taking an individualized and personalized approach. While students compete against each other, working hard to present work from an installation to performances (one group adapts Trojan Women into an all-female performance set in modern-day Pakistan), the picture is a little too rosy. However, it’s a conversation worth having as the US looks to improve education outcomes." — John Fink,

"…Most Likely To Succeed never makes a clear or convincing case that such experimentation has to happen outside the traditional public-school model. Why can’t you build 'soft skills' into the curriculum? And when the film is so insistent on this particular point, one wonders what’s really going on here.

To his credit, Whiteley does a good job raising and addressing the 'Yes, but' questions that a skeptic in the audience might come up with. Most Likely To Succeed is starting a good and necessary conversation. But it’s a conversation where everybody needs to be called on to speak, not just a few loud voices." — Rob Thomas, Madison Movie


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